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City of Santa Maria appealing $420k settlement to crash victims

Posted at 12:22 PM, Mar 14, 2019

The City of Santa Maria is appealing a jury’s ruling last year that awarded $420,000 to two people injured in a crash with a Santa Maria police car.

Attorney Michael Clayton, who represents the men injured in the May 19, 2016 crash, says the men have waited two years to get needed medical assistance for injuries sustained when they were hit from behind by a Santa Maria police car and the appeal is now holding that up again.

“He (Santa Maria City Attorney Ruben Escobedo) is attempting, in this motion, to take the verdict away from the jury and convince the judge to massively reduce the verdict or grant a new trial,” Clayton said.

He claims the officer was on the phone and distracted. The City has denied those allegations, saying the officer was looking at his in-dash computer while in the process of responding to reports of an attempted robbery when traffic came to an unexpected stop.

The City contested the extent of the men’s personal injuries but could not reach a settlement, which eventually resulted in the jury’s decision in favor of the two men.

The appeal is set to be heard again on Monday.

Clayon’s office says a judge has told the city attorney to provide more documents supporting the City’s request to decrease the settlement amount.

The City of Santa Maria sent the following statement to KSBY Thursday afternoon:

“The City of Santa Maria admitted fault in the accident and promptly paid the full value of the vehicle. However, the City contested the extent of the Plaintiffs’ personal injuries. After trial, a divided jury returned a verdict for approximately $420,000.

At the March 12, 2019 hearing, the City argued that the $420,000 award is excessive and unsupported by the evidence. At trial, Plaintiffs failed to submit sufficient evidence of the reasonable value of their medical damages to support the judgment amount. Special counsel for the City, at Lynberg and Watkins, asked the court for a reduction in damages so that the judgment amount is consistent the reasonable value of Plaintiffs’ medical damages based only on evidence that was actually submitted to the jurors or for a new trial. A further hearing on the issues is scheduled for March 18, 2019.”